The company’s fund range is also being re-jigged, with its four unit trusts due to be converted to OEICs as of 14 July – thus permitting wider European and international distribution, Argonaut said – while losing the last traces of Ignis branding.
Ignis will continue to handle Argonaut’s European distribution, under an arrangement with the company, Lester said, adding that he himself will oversee non-European, international distribution. "I will be focussing my sales attention on UK institutional and discretionary accounts, while developing our international relationships with key distribution partners, initially in the Channel Isles and Singapore," he added.
Argonaut was founded in May 2005 as a 50/50 joint venture between Ignis Asset Management and fund managers Barry Norris and Oliver Russ, both of whom – like Lester – had previously worked at Neptune, and who remain major shareholders in Argonaut. It currently manages around €1bn ($1.26bn,£803m).
News that Lester, who had been head of strategic partnerships at Neptune Investment Management, was to join an undisclosed “start-up” venture in the international space was reported here in April. At that time, Lester told International Adviser that there was “no limit to where our operation could potentially spread, in due course”.
More Neptune alumni
As indicated here in April, Lester is bringing with him to Argonaut some key members of his former Neptune team. They include Dennis Pellerito, who has been named manager of UK strategic partners, having been sales manager of third party distribution at Neptune; and Andy Nickson, broker sales executive at Argonaut, who had been involved in sales as well at Neptune.
Last October, yet another ex-Neptune executive, Greg Bennett, joined Argonaut on the investment side, although his most recent employer prior to Argonaut was Marlborough Fund Managers. Also new to Argonaut last year was Edward James, chief operating officer, who came to the company via Octopus Investments, Euroclear and Gerard Asset Management.
Argonaut founding partner Norris, who is also the company’s chief investment officer, described the transition at the company now under way as one in which he and his business partners and associates were “taking on responsibility for functions which were previously outsourced to Ignis”, noting that they had retained IFDS, a major UK fund administrator, to provide back office services previously handled by Ignis, in addition to building their own sales and marketing infrastructure.
As a result of this independence, “we firmly believe that we will create an even more compelling proposition for our clients”, Norris said.
Lester said he sees the expertise of its founding partners Norris and Russ as among Argonaut’s key selling points. “Barry Norris [has outperformed] the European market in eight out of the last nine years, while Olly Russ successfully pioneered the first European income fund delivering yields in excess of many traditional UK income funds that dominate this space,” he said.
When combined, the four funds offer advisers “a selection of alpha, income and total return solutions”, Lester added.
After 14 July, Argonaut’s funds will be known as:
• IM Argonaut European Alpha Fund
• IM Argonaut European Income Fund
• IM Argonaut European Enhanced Income Fund, and
• IM Argonaut European Absolute Return Fund
To view them on the company’s website, where they currently still carry the Ignis as well as Argonaut branding, and to download factsheets, click here.